Rymdkapsel is a minimalist, base-building survival game that was released last year on PlayStation Mobile. It has since been released on a large selection of other formats with the latest being the PC release at the end of January. This release brought with it a couple of extra modes to enhance the longevity of the game by mixing up its formula a little bit, but first let’s figure out exactly what it is.
It is sometimes described as a meditative experience, but it’s only really calm towards the opening of a game. You begin with two minions to do your bidding and as you place rooms they will move the necessary resources to build them. There are three resources that are generated in different ways – energy is created at a reactor, materials are harvested from a material patch by an extractor, and food is created by growing sludge in a garden and refining it in a kitchen.
Each of these resources is used to place rooms so you can expand. Corridors make up the backbone of your base – they connect all the other rooms together and allow your minions to move around. In addition to the previous mentioned reactor, extractor, garden, and kitchen, there are quarters, which create new minions and increase the minion cap by two; and the weapons room, which is used to defend your base.
Minions can be moved between jobs, like construction, food service, or engineering, by clicking their current job on the bottom of the screen and dragging to the desired one. This must be done one minion at a time, meaning that once you have a lot of them it can become quite tiresome, particularly with a mouse.
Above the occupations is a bar that slowly fills and, once full, your base will be attacked by what seem to be floating, malicious ribbons. They will fly around the map shooting at any minions they come across until they are shot down or you have no minions left, at which point it is game over. A weapons room can be used to fight them off by assigning minions to the defence job. Each weapons room accommodates two minions who will fire upon any enemy that comes within range. Ensuring that as much of your base is within range of your weapons rooms as possible is key to lasting, as is an efficient corridor system so your minions can get around quickly.
To achieve this efficient corridor system, however, you have to play with one of the game’s most unique aspects: your rooms are all shaped like tetrominoes (Tetris shapes). The next three shapes are shown in the top left corner, with the biggest showing you what shape your next room will be when you place it. At first it might feel a little strange but, once you get used to it, the satisfied feeling of fitting a group of rooms together perfectly is one that doesn’t seem to go away the more you do it.
The game encourages quick expansion in a number of ways. First, obviously, your rooms take up space so you need to expand so you have room to place them. Second, the material patches that your extractors harvest minerals from are a finite resource, so you need to expand towards other patches or run the risk of not being able to later because you have run out of materials. Thirdly, the four corners of the map house a monolith. Once you connect it to your base a new job becomes available, allowing you to research the monolith to unlock a bonus, ranging from increasing the efficiency of your extractors to slowing the enemy onslaught. Of course as you expand further it grows more difficult to defend effectively.
Combined with the increasing frequency of waves of enemies, each of which has more than the previous, the game goes from the meditative, calm strategy that it was before to something a little more pressured, where four of the nine enemies happen to converge on the same weapons room and wipe out the unfortunate minions that are defending it, then go on a killing spree. Once you are at wave 25 with only three minions you simply don’t have enough time to recover and, like all great strategy games, it almost hurts as you watch the final minion fall.
That is normal mode. New Game+ differs in layout of material patches and monoliths, as well as the monoliths having different effects. Zen mode removes the enemies from the game entirely and, while it is certainly relaxing, lacks any objectives beyond being a free building mode. It will take you multiple goes to complete a normal or new game+ level, and on top of that there are additional objectives to complete like researching all the monoliths in 45 minutes. A regular game will last about an hour, at which point you can start again and hopefully this time you won’t give up on trying to make a decent corridor network halfway through the game.
Rymdkapsel is available on multiple formats, but only Windows, OSx and Linux come with the additional modes. They add additional longevity to a relatively short game, but ultimately whether or not you will enjoy restarting and perfecting your strategy is the deciding factor. As a survival base-building game it is unlike anything else and well worth experiencing if you are a fan of the genre.